Thursday 27 Oct 2016

The Shore Haven
David Simmonds

I did not know this. 

Wellington - the old incorporated municipality of Wellington - has an official coat of arms and flag. You can look it up on the Web to get all the official registration details, or if you want a better quality image than the newspaper can reproduce.

The coat of arms and flag have fallen by the wayside with amalgamation, but now that Wellington is celebrating its 150th, I say why not bring them out and display them proudly. It sure beats the alternative proposed by County staff - selling our Town Hall and Museum buildings,

How did we get to be so lucky? Well, although Picton beat Wellington to the punch in getting a coat of arms and flag in 1989 (we got ours in 1992), it so happened that the Chief Herald of Canada was one Robert D. Watt, who grew up in the County. Mr. Watt’s family on his mother’s side were from Wellington and had deep loyalist roots. So when approached he was quite sympathetic to the idea of creating a design with loyalist and Wellington connections. 

Mr. Watt, who is now retired as Chief Herald, and who is a citizenship judge in British Columbia and who bears the honorific title “Rideau Herald Emeritus,” walked me through the imagery. The flag, reproduced on the coat of arms, is a stylized “W” against the background of red and white Canadian colours. The three crowns are “loyalist coronets,” traditional representations of loyalist ancestry.

The coat of arms bears the motto “a haven on the shore,” a phrase coined by Mr. Watt. It's as a nod to Wellington’s connection to water and its earlier incarnation as a getaway from the big city. The mixed lion/fish characters are traditional in heraldry, as well, and in this case represent both the lake faring connection and the British connection. The helmet and cornucopia are both traditional heraldic symbols, and the horse sitting on top of the whole shooting match is a Hanoverian horse having a connection with the Duke of Wellington. It also serves a tip of the hat to Wellington’s agricultural roots.

The key to a good coat of arms, Mr. Watt told me, is to do it right because you only get one chance; and to make it simple, but striking and beautiful. Well for my money, he has succeeded. Looking at the coat of arms and flag makes my heart go a flutter.

I understand the Wellington and District Business Association plans to reproduce the flag for flying up and down the village later this year and the coat of arms may appear on mugs and T-shirts. Mr. Watt noted, with a hint of tremor in his voice, that heraldic crests are not sort of thing to be putting on underwear or sporting as tattoos, although he had every confidence that the commercial powers that be would exercise restraint.

This prompts me to wonder. Obviously, the Rolling Stones own their rudely stuck-out tongue logo and licensees pay to use it. Did the County acquire all the proprietary symbols of the old Village of Wellington when amalgamation took place? If it did, and I acknowledge we are not talking about the Rolling Stones, Adidas or Coca Cola, but nonetheless a nice image that deserves reproduction. Why is the City talking about closing the Town Hall and Museum when there is good money in selling licensed products with the coat of arms or flag on it?

I would even, and I hope Mr. Watt will not roll over in his grave-to-be on this, go so far as to say “put it on underwear if it will sell,” if it will bring some money to the County’s coffers to forestall the sale of such wonderful old buildings. Who’s to know what the limit might be? With the Drake Hotel people having acquired the Devonshire Inn, what will stop the trendy Queen Street West crowd, who will now be starting to visit Wellington, from starting to sport hydration bottles and yoga wear bearing the Wellington coat of arms? We would have started a trend that, as trendy people would say, could go viral.

Then we might actually be able to breathe a sigh of relief, secure in the knowledge that our heritage buildings are safe again, at least until next year’s budget.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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